Any lingering perception that Donald J. Trump would fade from the political scene like different previous presidents evaporated totally on Sunday as he spoke for greater than 90 minutes in a grievance-filled and self-promoting handle that sought to shine up his presidential legacy, take intention at his enemies and tease his political future.
Here are six takeaway from the primary main Republican gathering of the post-Trump period, the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla.
Trump has (virtually) complete dominance.
“I am not starting a new party,” Mr. Trump declared, nixing rumors and making information within the first moments of the primary speech of his post-presidency.
And why would he? Mr. Trump stays probably the most influential Republican politician within the nation. The three-day CPAC gathering in Orlando confirmed how totally the Republican Party has been remade in his picture within the 5 years since he boycotted the convention in 2016 en path to capturing the celebration’s nomination.
In a meandering speech guided by a teleprompter and interrupted with cheering that at instances learn extra compulsory than enthusiastic, Mr. Trump lashed out at President Biden and outlined his imaginative and prescient of a culture- and immigration-focused Republican Party whereas relitigating his particular grievances from 2020.
Mr. Trump named each Republican who voted for his impeachment. “Get rid of them all,” he mentioned. And he predicted a Republican would win the White House in 2024. “Who, who, who will that be, I wonder?” he mused.
The speech got here proper after Mr. Trump received a CPAC 2024 presidential straw ballot, ending with 55 p.c of the vote — greater than double the proportion of his closest runner-up. But that victory was dampened by the truth that solely 68 p.c of the attendees on the convention mentioned they needed him to run once more.
A second straw ballot, with out Mr. Trump, was carried by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who acquired 43 p.c on his house turf, adopted by Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota with 11 p.c.
Those outcomes showcased the problem that senators face in edging forward of governors within the 2024 pack of potential presidential candidates. Both Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Noem highlighted their efforts to maintain the financial system open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which proved a extra widespread résumé level than the legislative fights that senators in Washington have been engaged in.
‘Cancel culture’ is the brand new ‘fake news.’
In his first presidential bid, Mr. Trump adopted “fake news” as a rallying cry in opposition to the normal information media after which successfully and relentlessly deployed it to place himself as the only arbiter of fact for his supporters.
The lineup of CPAC audio system over the weekend confirmed how completely a brand new pair of catchphrases — “cancel culture” and the “woke mob” — are animating a Republican Party that, past supporting Mr. Trump, seems more and more centered on defining itself in opposition to the left.
“Didn’t anybody tell you?” Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri started his CPAC speech. “You’re supposed to be canceled.”
The crowd cheered as “cancel culture” served all through the weekend as shorthand for bashing the information media, railing in opposition to the tech trade (specifically, Twitter’s and Facebook’s selections to bar Mr. Trump from their platforms), and spreading concern concerning the decline of conservative and non secular values in American widespread tradition.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, certainly one of his celebration’s most adroit tradition warriors, summarized the annoyance and alienation felt by attendees on the right-wing gathering due to the persevering with pandemic.
“You can French kiss the guy next to you yelling ‘Abolish the police’ and no one will get infected,” he mocked. “But if you go to church and say ‘Amazing grace,’ everyone is going to die.”
A ‘rigged’ 2020 is now a G.O.P. article of religion.
T.W. Shannon, a Republican from Oklahoma, was the primary to say it. Speaking Friday morning on a panel referred to as “Tolerance Reimagined: The Angry Mob and Violence in Our Streets,” Mr. Shannon mentioned the rationale pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 was that “they felt hopeless.”
And that, he mentioned, was “because of a rigged election.”
The election was not rigged, in fact, however by the tip of CPAC it was clear that the lie Mr. Trump had promoted vigorously had turn into canon among the many base of the Republican Party. On Sunday, the convention’s straw ballot outcomes revealed that 62 p.c of attendees ranked “election integrity” as an important challenge dealing with the nation.
For those that tuned into Mr. Hawley’s speech, this was most likely unsurprising: Mr. Hawley, who was the primary Senate Republican to announce his plans to object to the Electoral College certification, electrified the CPAC viewers when he reminded them of his defiance.
“On Jan. 6, I objected to the Electoral College certification — maybe you heard about it,” Mr. Hawley mentioned with a wry grin. People erupted in applause.
In interviews, a number of CPAC attendees have been adamant that widespread voter fraud had led to the election of Mr. Biden — and a few inadvertently advised the long-term penalties this might pose for the celebration.
Pamela Roehl, 55, who traveled to the convention from Illinois, mentioned a few of her pro-Trump mates had written off civic engagement for good. “They voted for Trump, and they said they’re not going to vote again, because they just feel like it’s so tainted,” she mentioned. “And that is just so sad.”
There was little curiosity in coverage — whether or not Biden’s or the Republican Party’s.
As the convention started, House Democrats have been making ready to approve a coronavirus reduction bundle value almost $2 trillion that was opposed by each House Republican. But contained in the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, it was exhausting to seek out many conservatives who cared.
CPAC in previous years has served, at minimal, as a discussion board for conservatives to unite in opposition to a Democratic coverage agenda. But most audio system over the weekend received applause by channeling the preoccupation with character over coverage that animated the celebration throughout Mr. Trump’s presidency. The end result was an occasion by which conservatives signaled their lack of curiosity not simply in mobilizing in opposition to Mr. Biden’s insurance policies, but additionally in debating the finer factors of their very own.
Mr. DeSantis advised that the present menace posed by the left was too harmful for conservatives to prioritize coverage discussions.
“We can sit around and have academic debates about conservative policy — we can do that,” he mentioned. “But the question is, when the Klieg lights get hot, when the left comes after you: Will you stay strong, or will you fold?”
In an illustration of how Mr. Trump has remodeled the celebration, there was strikingly little point out of curbing spending at a second when congressional Democrats are transferring to revive earmarks. And whereas CPAC attendees ranked immigration because the third most necessary challenge dealing with the nation, few audio system mentioned particular coverage proposals to form the celebration’s stance on the problem past persevering with to assist Mr. Trump’s border wall.
Kristi Noem is hailed as ‘a female Trump.’
Ms. Noem, who got here in second to Mr. DeSantis within the CPAC straw ballot with out Mr. Trump, was one of many standout audio system of the weekend, delivering a staunchly pro-Trump message and highlighting the anti-lockdown and anti-mask insurance policies that previously yr have made her a darling of the bottom of the Republican Party.
She jolted to stardom in Republican circles final yr when she refused to challenge a lockdown order for South Dakota or to implement a masks mandate. Instead, she advocated “washing your hands and making good decisions.”
South Dakota now has the country’s eighth-highest death rate from Covid-19.
Ms. Noem acquired a standing ovation at CPAC when she boasted that she had by no means ordered a “single business or church to close,” and one other one when she attacked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s prime infectious illness skilled.
In the hours main as much as her speech on Saturday, many attendees praised Ms. Noem as their favourite Republican — other than Mr. Trump, in fact.
“I like Kristi Noem because she fights back,” mentioned Sany Dash, who bought pro-Trump merchandise on the convention. “I feel like she’s a female Trump, except not crass or rude. ”
The Republican ‘civil war’ stays very a lot uncanceled.
Senator Rick Scott of Florida, who runs the Republican political committee making an attempt to win again the Senate in 2022, tried to downplay any intraparty disagreements and urged activists to concentrate on opposing the Democratic agenda.
The downside is that a few of his celebration’s largest names — together with and particularly Mr. Trump — are targeted first on exacting revenge for many who strayed from the Trump celebration line on impeachment.
Donald Trump Jr. excoriated Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the top-ranking Republican to vote to question his father, as aggressively as he did any Democrat in his speech. Mr. Trump on Friday introduced that certainly one of his first 2022 endorsements could be for the first opponent of Representative Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, one other Republican who voted for impeachment. The mere point out of Senator Mitt Romney’s identify drew derision.
In his personal speech, Mr. Trump named each Republican who voted for his impeachment within the House and for conviction within the Senate, focusing particular consideration on Ms. Cheney, whom he referred to as a “warmonger.”
But even when there are vital elements of the Republican equipment at struggle, the activist flank of the celebration stays firmly behind Mr. Trump. Or, as he put it, “The only division is between a handful of Washington, D.C., establishment political hacks and everybody else.”
There have been no extra surefire applause traces than people who heaped reward on the previous president.
When Donald Trump Jr. jokingly referred to as the gathering “TPAC” as an alternative of CPAC — “It’s what it feels like, guys!” he mentioned — it felt much less like a clumsy joke and extra a press release of 2021 actuality.